Posted: Friday November 2, 2012 10:30AM ; Updated: Friday November 2, 2012 12:03PM
Ben Reiter
Ben Reiter>INSIDE BASEBALL

Reiter 50 (cont.): 26-50

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26. Hisashi Iwakuma

Ryan Dempster
Ryan Dempster changed teams at midseason when the Cubs traded him to the Rangers.
Rick Yeatts/Getty Images

Age: 32
Position: Starting pitcher
2012 Stats: 9-5, 3.16 ERA, 1.277 WHIP, 7.3 K/9, 2 SV
Current Team: Mariners
Best Fit: Mariners

In his first year in the U.S., Iwakuma was mediocre as a relief pitcher -- his ERA was 4.75 in that role -- but a revelation after the Mariners inserted him into their rotation at the beginning of July. In 16 starts he went 8-4, with a 2.65 ERA and a 1.232 WHIP, and he showed much better command in that role, nearly doubling his strikeout-to-walk ratio (from 1.53 to 2.79). There is no doubt, however, that he benefited from pitching at Safeco Field (his ERA was 2.49 at home, 4.20 on the road). Both he and the Mariners have reason to have him continue to do so.

27. Ichiro Suzuki

Age: 39
Position: OF
2012 Stats: .283/.307/.390, 9 HR, 55 RBI, 29 SB
Current Team: Yankees
Best Fit: Giants

At his advanced age he will never again be the magician he once was, but Ichiro looked something like it after his surprising July trade from the Mariners to the Yankees. In 67 games with New York he batted .322 (he'd hit .261 in 95 games with Seattle) with five home runs, 27 RBIs, 14 steals and an OBP of .340.

Ichiro will likely be picky about his next destination, and the Yankees, who will have a hole to fill if Nick Swisher departs, could bring them back. If they don't, he could move on to San Francisco, where he would fit in very nicely in that contact-hitting, move-the-line-along offense, particularly if the Giants lose Angel Pagan.

28. Jonathan Broxton

Age: 29
Position: Closer
2012 Stats: 4-5, 2.48 ERA, 1.259 WHIP, 8.7 K/9, 27 SV
Current Team: Reds
Best Fit: Brewers

The 6-foot-4, 300-pound Broxton, a two-time All-Star for the Dodgers by the age of 26, successfully rebounded from an injury-destroyed 2011: He was first the Royals' closer (he converted 23 of 27 save opportunities there) and then, after a trade, a setup man to Aroldis Chapman in Cincinnati. He did it by regaining his fastball, which he was occasionally able to dial up past 100 miles per hour. The Brewers are in desperate need of stability in the back end of their bullpen -- they blew an MLB-high 29 saves, which contributed to the falling short in their unlikely playoff push -- and they can find it in Broxton.

29. Ryan Dempster

Age: 36
Position: Starting pitcher
2012 Stats: 12-8, 3.38 ERA, 1.197 WHIP, 8.0 K/9
Current Team: Rangers
Best Fit: Indians

Dempster was a major disappointment after the Rangers sent two prospects to the Cubs to acquire him at the deadline. Yes, he went 7-3 for Texas, but in his 12 starts his ERA was 5.09 (it was 2.25 in Chicago), and his WHIP was 1.435 (1.038 in Chicago). That late swoon won't demolish his asking price, but it will decrease it, perhaps to the point at which the Indians -- whose rotation still needs the anchor that Ubaldo Jimenez hasn't at all proven to be -- can afford him.

30. Jeremy Affeldt

Age: 34
Position: Relief pitcher
2012 Stats: 1-2, 2.70 ERA, 1.263 WHIP, 8.1 K/9, 3 SV
Current Team: Giants
Best Fit: Giants

Affeldt was last seen plowing through the tricky part the Tigers' lineup in the eighth and ninth innings of the Giants' 10-inning, World Series clinching win in Game 4. He struck out Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Delmon Young and Andy Dirks in succession before inducing Jhonny Peralta to fly out, thereby confirming what we already know: even though he is lefthanded, he is far from a lefty specialist. In fact, his effectiveness against batters who hit from either side of the plate -- righties batted .244 against him, lefties .236 -- makes him the highest-ranked middle reliever on this list. GM Brian Sabean won't be able to re-sign all his free agents, since as many as seven members of his championship roster might reach the market, but Affeldt should be a priority.

31. Delmon Young

Age: 27
Position: OF
2012 Stats: .267/.296/.411, 18 HR, 74 RBI, 0 SB
Current Team: Tigers
Best Fit: Rays

Young has one thing going for him -- he is the youngest free agent on the market, as he will not turn 28 until September -- and several working the other way. He doesn't really hit righthanded pitchers (he had a .649 OPS against them, .833 versus southpaws), he has become such an abominable outfielder that he really should be limited to DH, and, oh yes, he was arrested on a hate crime last April in New York.

The last will probably disqualify him from joining the Yankees -- where he could have been useful, as a half of a DH platoon with fellow free agent Raul Ibaņez -- and the first two make him the most difficult player on this entire list to fit into a new team. Demand for him will likely be very low -- perhaps low enough that he will become attractive to the Rays, who got rid of Young in 2007 (four years after they had made him the No. 1 overall pick in the draft) but who are always looking for value.

32. Kelly Johnson

Age: 31
Position: Second baseman
2012 Stats: .225/.313/.365, 16 HR, 55 RBI, 14 SB
Current Team: Blue Jays
Best Fit: Twins

The market for second basemen is only slightly deeper than it is for shortstops, and that should be a boon to Johnson. Despite registering a career-low OPS in 2012 (.678), and striking out far too much (159 times, seventh most in the AL), he possesses a nice power/speed skill set. The Twins' offense came around in the second half, when it ranked 10th in runs scored, and Johnson could boost it even further while providing a significant upgrade on Jamey Carroll or Alexi Casilla.

33. Joe Saunders

Age: 32
Position: Starting pitcher
2012 Stats: 9-13, 4.07 ERA, 1.340 WHIP, 5.8 K/9
Current Team: Orioles
Best Fit: Tigers

You're not supposed to improve after moving from the NL West to the AL East, but that's what Saunders did upon being traded by the Diamondbacks to the Orioles in late August. He was 6-10 with a 4.22 ERA in Arizona, but 3-3 with a 3.63 ERA in Baltimore -- and he pitched terrifically in the playoffs, allowing one run over 5 2/3 innings in both his club's wild-card game win over the Rangers and ALDS Game 4 loss to the Yankees.

Those six weeks did much to boost the former top prospect's attractiveness -- to the point at which the Tigers, who might lose Anibal Sanchez and could stand to diversify their righty-heavy staff with a veteran southpaw, might have interest.

34. Jeff Keppinger

Age: 33
Position: Second base
2012 Stats: .325/.367/.439, 9 HR, 40 RBI, 1 SB
Current Team: Rays
Best Fit: Orioles

It's difficult to put much stock in a career year when it comes at age 32, particularly when it comes in part thanks to a career-high BABIP of .332. Still, the veteran of six teams has long been a useful hitter and a solid-enough and versatile defender. Even if he regresses somewhat at the plate, he would still represent a good signing for the Orioles, who desperately need a second baseman. The men who played there last year for Baltimore, mostly Robert Andino, Ryan Flaherty and Omar Quintanilla, combined to bat a dreadful .213, with an OPS of .596.

35. Ryan Ludwick

Age: 34
Position: OF
2012 Stats: .275/.346/.531, 26 HR, 80 RBI, 0 SB
Current Team: Reds
Best Fit: Reds

We know Ludwick thinks he's worth far more than the $2 million he earned from the Reds last season because he turned down his half of a mutual $5 million option for 2013. He's right. He should be paid more than that after turning in what was by far his best season since 2008, in part by taking advantage of Great American Ballpark's friendly walls (16 of his homers came at home) -- but he shouldn't be paid so much more that he proves unaffordable to the Reds. The odds are good that he'll return for a few more years in Cincinnati.

36. Torii Hunter

Torii Hunter
Torii Hunter won't match his last contract but should still get a nice deal this offseason.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Age: 37
Position: OF
2012 Stats: .313/.365/.451, 16 HR, 92 RBI, 9 SB
Current Team: Angels
Best Fit: Cubs

Hunter is a rarity for a big time free agent: He more or less earned every penny of the five-year, $90 million deal the Angels gave him prior to the 2008 season. In his five years in Anaheim he avaraged 143 games played, 21 homers and 86 RBIs, and his formerly Gold Glove defense didn't really decline until the last few seasons. He was also, for what it's worth, an extremely agreeable presence in the clubhouse.

The Angels will likely decide they've gotten enough out of him, but the Cubs badly need even a part time outfielder -- especially if they trade Alfonso Soriano -- and Hunter could fill that role, as well as providing leadership to a callow clubhouse.

37. Scott Hairston

Age: 33
Position: OF
2012 Stats: .263/.299/.504, 20 HR, 57 RBI, 8 SB
Current Team: Mets
Best Fit: Tigers

Hairston had a solid season overall, but he really excels versus lefthanded pitchers: against them his OPS was .867. As was starkly demonstrated by Barry Zito and Madison Bumgarner in Games 1 and 2 of the World Series, the Tigers' lineup struggles against lefties -- they hit .253 off them in the regular season. Now that they seem ready to part ways with southpaw-killer Delmon Young, Hairston would be a defensively superior fit.

38. Shane Victorino

Age: 32
Position: OF
2012 Stats: .255/.321/.383, 11 HR, 55 RBI, 39 SB
Current Team: Dodgers
Best Fit: Braves

Want to see what a truly awful contract year performance looks like? Take a look at Victorino's numbers. Last winter the former star figured to be in this list's top 10, and last March Victorino suggested that he would seek a five-year contract this winter. He won't get anything close to that after a season, split between the Phillies and Dodgers, in which virtually all of his offensive numbers except for steals fell off, in many places dramatically.

Clubs know that players whose success is based on their speed can fade quickly, and Victorino might have already begun to do so. The Braves, though, will likely need a quick centerfielder who can lead off after the probable loss of Michael Bourn. They never overspend, but it looks like they might not have to on Victorino.

39. Kevin Youkilis

Age: 34
Position: Third base
2012 Stats: .235/.336/.409, 19 HR, 60 RBI, 0 SB
Current Team: White Sox
Best Fit: Diamondbacks

Youkilis was better with Chicago, where he was traded after his relationship with the Red Sox became damaged beyond repair, but not that much better. He hit .233 with the Red Sox, .236 with the White Sox. The Greek God of Walks didn't even walk that much: 51 times in 122 games. The fact is that he is simply no longer the annual batting title contender and MVP candidate he once was.

That doesn't mean he can no longer be useful, particularly in a year in which free agent third basemen are scarce. The left side of Arizona's infield could really use an infusion of talent, as the depth chart is currently topped by players like Willie Bloomquist, Chris Johnson, John McDonald and Cliff Pennington. Youkilis could provide it.

40. Sean Burnett

Age: 30
Position: Relief pitcher
2012 Stats: 1-2, 2.38 ERA, 1.235 WHIP, 9.1 K/9, 2 SV
Current Team: Nationals
Best Fit: Nationals

Unlike Jeremy Affeldt, Burnett is best used as a lefty specialist: lefthanded batters hit .211 against him in 2012 to righthanded hitters' .298, and Burnett had a remarkable strikeout to walk rate against lefties of 28 to 1. Still, just because his uses are limited doesn't mean he's not valuable, particularly in a year in which very few desirable true LOOGYs will be available (the only other one might be veteran Randy Choate). The Nationals don't have any other players on their roster who can fill the role as well as Burnett can, and although he turned down his half of a $3.5 million mutual option, they will strive to work something more agreeable out with him.

41. Russell Martin

Age: 30
Position: Catcher
2012 Stats: .211/.311/.403, 21 HR, 53 RBI, 6 SB
Current Team: Yankees
Best Fit: Rays

Martin will never become the elite offensive catcher that his first three years with the Dodgers (he hit .285 with an OPS of .806 and averaged 14 home run, 78 RBIs and 16 steals) suggested he might. But he has good power (his 39 homers over the past two seasons ranked him seventh among catchers), and he handles a pitching staff well. Not as well as Jose Molina, the Rays' crafty starter in 2012, but Tampa Bay simply can't sustain another year of Molina's bat -- in 102 games, he hit .223 with eight home runs and 32 RBIs -- and Martin would constitute an overall improvement.

42. Ryan Madson

Age: 32
Position: Closer
2012 Stats: N/A
Current Team: Reds
Best Fit: Mets

The longtime Phillie ranked No. 12 on this list last November, signed a one-year, $8.5 million deal with Cincinnati last January and tore a ligament in his pitching elbow last March, making it likely he will never throw a pitch for the Reds (who did not consider picking up his $11 million mutual option for 2013).

Madson, however, was for years in Philadelphia one of the league's most reliable relievers, and he steadily improved over his time there. In 117 appearances between 2010 and '11, he had an ERA of 2.45. Many teams will likely float to him a short-term, incentive laden deal to see if his repaired ligament can hold up, and the Mets -- who are surely tired of cycling through ineffective closers, like Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch last year -- should be one of them.

43. Francisco Liriano

Age: 29
Position: Starting pitcher
2012 Stats: 6-12, 5.34 ERA, 1.468 WHIP, 9.6 K/9
Current Team: White Sox
Best Fit: Rangers

Liriano's excellent strikeout rate -- he just missed qualifying for third-best in the majors -- suggests he has the stuff to return to his 2006 Rookie of the Year form, when he went 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA for Minnesota. His struggles are perplexing: batters basically square up anything they don't miss entirely (he allowed nearly a hit per inning after his trade to the White Sox this season).

Still, he might be another change of scenery, or perhaps a new pitching coach, away from becoming an ace. The Rangers have a terrific pitching coach, Mike Maddux, and injuries to Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz that will extend into the regular season mean they need another starter.

44. Carlos Villanueva

Joakim Soria
Joakim Soria didn't pitch in 2012 because of Tommy John surgery, which could affect the market for his services.
AP

Age: 29
Position: Starting pitcher
2012 Stats: 7-7, 4.16 ERA, 1.269 WHIP, 8.8 K/9
Current Team: Blue Jays
Best Fit: Twins

Villanueva has never reached Lirano's highs in his seven-year career, but he has rarely approached his lows either. He is, simply, steady -- apart from 2009, his ERA has never topped 4.61 -- and versatile, too, as he can either start or relieve. The Twins need steady innings more than virtually any other team, and would likely sign him to start for them. A free agent haul of Marcum and Villanueva, while modest, would be an important step forward for Minnesota.

45. Luke Scott

Age: 35
Position: DH
2012 Stats: .229/.285/.439, 14 HR, 55 RBI, 5 SB
Current Team: Rays
Best Fit: Indians

Scott has recently had trouble staying healthy, as assorted injuries have limited him to less than a season's worth of games -- 160 -- over the past two years. But when he plays, he hits home runs: he averaged 25 per year in Baltimore between 2008 and '10. The Indians, after parting ways with the even more injury-prone Travis Hafner, need a DH, one with power (their 136 homers ranked 12th in the AL), and one who produces against righthanded pitching. Scott could fill those needs, on the cheap.

46. Bartolo Colon

Age: 40
Position: Starting pitcher
2012 Stats: 10-9, 3.43 ERA, 1.208 WHIP, 5.4 K/9
Current Team: A's
Best Fit: Pirates

Colon has recently been in the news for all the wrong reasons. In August he was suspended for 50 games for testing positive for synthetic testosterone, and last week he was hit in the mouth by a line drive while pitching in the Dominican League (he is reportedly OK).

But the 2005 AL Cy Young winner remains a man with an appetite for innings, and has developed sensational control -- his 1.4 walks per nine innings last year represented the best ratio of his 15-year career, and on one remarkable night last April he threw 38 consecutive strikes. That sort of skill set, and the low-cost depth he can provide, will be coveted by the Pirates.

47. Mike Adams

Age: 34
Position: Relief pitcher
2012 Stats: 5-3, 3.27 ERA, 1.395 WHIP, 7.7 K/9, 1 SV
Current Team: Rangers
Best Fit: Angels

Adams' nearly five-year run as one of the game's top setup men hit a snag in September, when in just 8 1/3 innings his ERA jumped from 2.45 to where it ended up. It was later revealed that he had been suffering from thoracic outlet syndrome. Adams had surgery to address the problem in mid-October, and don't expect teams to be entirely scared away from a player who has used a low-90s fastball and hard slider to pitch to a 1.98 ERA in 297 appearances since 2008. The Angels' bullpen was stabilized a bit by their trade for Ernesto Frieri, but it was still the AL's third-worst overall, and L.A. loves to sign players away from its biggest rival.

48. Scott Baker

Age: 30
Position: Starting pitcher
2012 Stats: N/A
Current Team: Twins
Best Fit: Rockies

If you are going to undergo Tommy John surgery during a contract season, you should have it early on. Baker had his in April, ensuring that he would miss the entire year and that the Twins would decline his $9.25 million option, but that he would be close enough to health to attract some interest as a free agent. Baker had a solid 2011 -- he went 8-6, with a 3.14 ERA and a strikeout rate of 8.2 batters per nine innings, the best two such ratios of his career. The Rockies are so pitching-poor that they couldn't even fill out a rotation for much of last season (they went with four starters for a good portion of it), and if they do not try to splurge on one of the surer and more expensive things higher up these rankings, Baker could be a good alternative.

49. Joakim Soria

Age: 28
Position: Closer
2012 Stats: N/A
Current Team: Royals
Best Fit: Reds

Soria should come in second to Ryan Madson among former All-Star closers looking to return from injury on a free agent deal. The Tommy John surgery that forced Soria to miss all of last season was his second, and he might not be able to return until a few months into the 2013 season. He will not be able to command a base salary near the $8 million option on him that the Royals declined, but plenty of teams will be willing to gamble a little on a closer who saved 132 games with a 2.01 ERA before he turned 27. The Royals may try to re-sign him, but they have a good closing option in Greg Holland. If they don't, the Reds -- who will likely try to move Aroldis Chapman into the rotation -- make sense.

50. Lance Berkman

Age: 36
Position: 1B
2012 Stats: .259/.381/.444, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 2 SB
Current Team: Cardinals
Best Fit: Astros

The second of Berkman's consecutive one-year contracts with the Cardinals did not turn out nearly as well as the first. Prior to 2011, St. Louis signed him for $8 million, and he delivered a stellar year (.301, 31 HR, 94 RBIs) that earned him some MVP votes and helped his club to a world championship. The Cardinals rewarded him with $12 million for 2012, and he played in just 32 games, due to recurring knee trouble that required a few different surgeries.

Berkman might retire, but won't if the perfect situation presents itself. What might that be? A chance to return -- albeit for far less than $12 million -- to Houston, in his home state of Texas and the city in which he spent the first 12 years of his career, and in which the Astros, as a new member of the American League, will now need a designated hitter.

The match makes so much sense, in fact, that it elevates Berkman above the rest of this year's probable free agents (in the others receiving votes category: Joe Blanton, Randy Choate, Raul Ibaņez, J.P. Howell, Maicer Izturis, Carlos Peņa and Grady Sizemore) and into the final spot of the Reiter 50.

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